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English Literature The Clown Punk Context For some background on Simon Armitage look at the Context section of Homecoming. Subject The poem describes an encounter with the eponymous Clown Punk, a tattooed, slightly tragic character who presses his face against the windscreen of the narrator's car when it stops at traffic lights, frightening the children sitting in the back seat. Armitage told a BBC website interviewer in 2006 that this poem is based on a real person he used to see around town, and follows "a tradition in English Literature of writing such poems, where one type of person stands eyeball to eyeball with another type, and something passes between them". What do you think is passing between the narrator and the punk? Structure and Language Structure The poem consists of a single stanza [stanza: A group of lines of poetry that make up a unit - like a paragraph in a piece of prose; a verse. ] of 24 lines. The lines are pentameters (they have ten syllables each). Language Sound • Some of the vocabulary is very 'northern' - the phrase "slathers his daft mush" is particularly suggestive of Armitage's Yorkshire roots. • The rhyme in the phrase "town clown" contributes to the creation of a comic image, before telling us not to laugh. Imagery • This is a strongly visual poem. The simile of "a basket of washing that got up and walked, towing a dog on a rope" conjures a shambolic person. The structure of the sentence mirrors the way the dog walks behind the clown punk. • Armitage makes the reader re-imagine a heavily tattooed body. The man's skin is an image all of its own, made up of "every pixel". But the poem stops us from reacting with fear, as we might typically; instead we are encouraged to think sympathetically of how such a person will look in old age, when the tattoos become "sad". • Vocabulary to do with art or painting - "ink", "daubed" and "dyed" - permeates the poem in the same way that tattoos puncture the man's skin, so that the ink has sunk even into his "brain". Is there a pun here with 'died'? • It is striking that although the tattoo ink is "indelible", the image of the clown punk can be washed away with windscreen wipers and rain in the minds of the children on the back seat. Although tattoos are permanent, people are not, so eventually everything will be gone. Attitudes, themes and ideas The Clown Punk is a character who could be either frightening or comic, but the narrator warns, "don't laugh". Instead the poem creates a pathetic figure, who will be "deflated" by the years. There is an almost dismissive tone to the poem, suggested in descriptive phrases like "basket of washing" and "daft mush", perhaps used to make the punk seem less threatening to the children in the car. As he often does, Armitage is introducing us to a character that we might…


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